Carousel – reviews of ‘exciting' musical reboot at the Arcola

Jul 1, 2014

Superlative revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein classic offers five-star fun in a small venue

QNQ Creative
What you need to know

A revival of the classic American musical Carousel has opened at the Arcola theatre, London. Luke Fredericks directs the 1943 musical with music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein. 

This production shifts the story from its original 1870s setting to the 1930s and 40s as it follows the life of mill worker Julie Jordan, who falls for a brutish but charismatic outsider Billy Bigelow. When Billy loses his job at a fairground and turns to crime, destiny seems to take control of their lives.

The show includes the hit songs June Is Bustin' Out All Over and You'll Never Walk Alone. Runs until 19 July.

What the critics like

This musical revival is "spirited, funny and achingly sad", says Jane Shilling in the Daily Telegraph. It's an emotional wringer of a show that finds every nuance of tenderness and danger in a classic, and expresses them as though for the very first time.

This "superlative reboot of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic is full of five-star fun", says Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard. With mellifluous singing and three outstanding leads, Carousel has never seemed so fresh, poignant and vital, but on a scale that is profoundly human.

This reimagining of a classic at east London's intimate Arcola, proves that, with creative thinking, "small venues can pack a mighty punch", says Marianka Swain on the Arts Desk. It's an exciting experiment, from the joyful wit of the rousing ensemble numbers to moments of well-earned pathos, showing that space is no impediment to satisfying musical theatre.

What they don't like

The production "may be beautifully sung and nicely choreographed, but its attempt to relocate the story to the second world war can't iron out the flaws in the musical," says Lyn Gardner in The Guardian. Oscar Hammerstein's book, with its prehistoric attitudes to domestic and sexual violence, works against all best intentions to reimagine it.

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